Little Blue Pills Among the Ways CIA Wins Friends in Afghanistan

“The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

“Take one of these. You'll love it,” the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills…”

via Washington Post.

The Curious Case of Street Lamp Interference

It’s about midnight and you are heading home. Suddenly, the street lamp above turns off without reason, and you find yourself in the dark. It is natural to experience a chill. But what would you think if street lamps kept turning off when you passed them by?

It is something that many of us have experienced, at least once. Many don’t take notice, but others do and wonder if the cause of such interference lies inside them…

The idea is that there appears to be an effect that is not consistent with our current knowledge of how people interact with the physical world, and which occurs in specific circumstances.

Four explanations for SLI have been proposed…”

— Massimo Polidoro, an investigator of the paranormal, author, lecturer, and cofounder and head of CICAP, the Italian skeptics group. Via The Skeptical Inquirer. I have previously mentioned SLI here, given my own experiences with a particular pair of streetlights on my block.

Rubber hand feels real for amputees

nitrile glove

“…Swedish researchers show that a simple illusion can induce amputees to experience a rubber hand as their own, so that tactile stimuli directed to it produce sensations which are localized to their missing limbs. The study, which is published in an open access paper in the journal Brain, is therefore an important step towards the development of neuroprostheses which feel like real limbs.”

via Neurophilosophy.

Dystopia and the End of Politics

28 Days Later

The new cultural prestige of disaster: A visit to a bookstore or multiplex confirms the new strain of morbidity in the air. Every other month seems to bring the publication of at least one new so-called literary novel on dystopian or apocalyptic themes and the release of at least one similarly themed movie displaying some artistic trappings. (Artsy, but not quite aspiring to be art, films like 28 Days Later and Children of Men might be called, without scorn, “B+ movies,” to distinguish them from ordinary apocalyptic crowd-pleasers.) What is striking is not so much the proliferation of these futuristic works—something that has been going on for generations—but the wholesale rehabilitation of such “genre” material for serious or serious-seeming novels and movies. If ordinary citizens are taking their direst imaginings more to heart than before, so, it would appear, are novelists and filmmakers.”

via Dissent Magazine.